There is a long tradition in fantasy roleplaying of drow equipment being destroyed or rendered useless upon exposure to sunlight. Rise of the Drow: Collector’s Edition hints at this tradition with some equipment found in Tolgorith Tower, but throughout the prologue—which takes place on the surface, albeit mostly under an eclipse— the equipment the drow use is presumed to be of drow make, yet no discussion is given on the usefulness of those items should they find their way into the hands of the player characters. Here, then, is an optional bit of world-building the GM can include regarding drow-crafted arms and armor. These rules are kept intentionally vague to serve for any roleplaying game, as well as to allow the GM flexibility in implementing them. Continue reading Rise of the Drow: Disintegrating Drow Equipment
As noted on page 85 of Rise of the Drow: Collector’s Edition (RotDCE), the Stoneholme trilogy of adventures could serve as an alternate means of embarking on the campaign to thwart the drow in the Underworld. Follow us on Discord and Twitter to stay up to date on promotions and discounts that you can use to pick up the Stoneholme trilogy, or any of our products for your campaign!
Herein is a brief outline of the Stoneholme trilogy, as well as a few key inclusions the GM can make to tie into the plot of Rise of the Drow. The Rise of the Drow: Campaign Primer also serves to introduce players to the Underworld, providing them context for playing in the ancient dwarven city. Read no further if you want to avoid spoilers. Continue reading Rise of the Drow Alternate Prologue: The Stoneholme Trilogy
By far the most asked question we receive about Rise of the Drow: Collector’s Edition is, “Is it supposed to be this tough?”
The short answer is yes, it’s supposed to be a challenge. It’s a challenge for the players to use their resources wisely and to look outside their character sheets for ideas. But it’s also a challenge for the GM to keep the characters constantly in danger, constantly on the verge of defeat but also moving forward.
The first chapter of the prologue is called “The Darkness Arrives” and it is meant to set the tone for the entire campaign. The drow are introduced as a formidable foe, and the frantic pace and overall sense of encroaching darkness throughout the prologue compels the heroes to action and drives the players toward the quest of thwarting the drow. The prologue is not only difficult, but potentially deadly. While some groups embrace the idea of a TPK and enjoy the threat it poses, it’s not for every game table. What follows is a guide to avoid that most gruesome fate. Stop reading now if you want to avoid spoilers. Continue reading Rise of the Drow: Surviving the Prologue
Subterranean environments are one of the most beloved locales for exploration or adventure in tabletop gaming. Synonymous with the concept of “dungeon delving,” underground realms have been a consistent trope used by GMs for decades. That’s not to suggest that explorations into the world below don’t have their place or serve a very important function—there are many good reasons that world builders, both novice and professional, continue returning beneath the surface to spark both intrigue and wonder as well as cast a foreboding sense of dread.
To understand the natural draw to subterranean adventures and the psychology that sustains the tabletop RPG motif, one must first examine human nature and our history as a species. Since the human race first started crafting stories and myths around ancient campfires, venturing into the earth has always remained a powerful theme—it is often the dwelling place of supernatural beings and spirits, the land of the dead, and the domain of devils, demons, dragons, trolls, and countless other mysterious creatures, as well as a focal point of religion and mythology or places of power. For millennia, our ancestors have assigned mystery to the world beneath our feet more than to any other tangible environment.
As a world forever trapped in night, the ever present darkness in subterranean adventures provides a sense of danger that forms a sound foundation for excitement—a danger that is hard to willfully dismiss (even when taking into consideration magic or other means of illumination). Anticipation and apprehension of the unknown and unseen are biologically ingrained into our very beings, and we are mentally hardwired to perceived risk, providing a psychological route for more fully immersing players, making it easier to create epic and memorable experiences.
In a world of layers the subterranean adventure can encompass immense caverns, winding corridors, steep pitfalls, narrow chutes, and vents that access ascending or descending pathways that all interlink with vast chambers and crisscross over and under one another. Without a reliable means of orientation, it is incredibly easy to become hopelessly lost in these vast complexes, but a grandiose sense of scale can be easily obtained within a multi-tiered subterranean environment. Whether purposefully crafted by sentient minds or naturally occurring, the more this knotwork of connectivity is utilized, the more challenging (and rewarding) the subterranean environment will be to explore. It’s worth noting that you are also able to utilize the entirety of the environment much more easily (making climbing PCs far more mobile, but generally changing the expectations of a regular gaming experience on land rather than inside of it). Underground networks of streams, reservoirs of groundwater, and enormous aquifers can provide the same boundaries and hazards as their aboveground counterparts, and dark waters rich with bioluminescent algae and a surfeit of creatures that have adapted to a sunless world can provide a rich food source to support unique and complex ecosystems.
While a subterranean adventure can be as simple as the basement of a castle, the ground beneath our feet provides a ready palette the beckons for deeper and grander exploration. One good source for ready-to-play content to prepare such adventures is the AAW Games Underworld series that provide over a dozen books filled with races and classes designed specifically for a subterranean setting. If you’re looking for a complete subterranean adventure path, also check out Rise of the Drow.
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Whether you’re running a prepared adventure, using the AaWBlog as part of your table’s story, or running a campaign all your own, clues are likely to play a critical role in the overall structure of the game. The best sessions don’t reveal information right out with a skill check, however, and sometimes incorporating nuanced clues just doesn’t go right. Maybe there’s a very distracting and talkative PC, or the neighbor’s dog was barking during your reveal, or folks were too tired at the end of a session to remember that thing the merchant said; for whatever reason, the progression of the tale isn’t going as smoothly as you liked so what do you do?
Today’s Meta Thursday is for you! Below are some tips and tricks to get a wayward group back on track and busting through important narrative junctures like bosses!
Encourage Investigation and Be Patient
It’s not easy but this is one of the most important elements to using clues in your game. Over the months a campaign can encapsulate sessions can be delayed, memories can be warped, and life can rip attention away from the narrative and obscure the framework you’ve established. So long as the PCs are good about it—writing down important information and working with one another—hold your tongue until the time is nigh (see below).
Welcome to the Clue Farm
Don’t hesitate to give the adventurers plenty of clues! It’s important to remember that not everything you say needs to be relevant to the overall plot (indeed, that’d be counterproductive!), but otherwise be generous with leads and foreshadowing to put the party on the right path.
Two elements are critical when you start handing out plenty of hints, however. Make sure that you spread these out (both geographically in the game and in terms of time) and that each individual clue doesn’t give too much away, needing to be integrated with other clues to really reveal something important. The other priority is that some clues are far more important that others! If you’ve given the PCs a sea of clues they may quickly become lost, so make sure that the really crucial elements are in places and at times that don’t lend themselves to being forgotten (traditionally this comes at the end of a story arch, but any resolved intense situation qualifies).
Did You Get That Thing That I Sent You?
Sometimes it’s going to go right over their heads (why can vary from your own inconsistency or lack of emphasis, or because a player is hungry, owns a smart phone, or is just as human as you). When this happens remember that while the player may have forgotten, the character may not have so give the PCs checks to see if it swims up out of their consciousness and to the forefront of their mind! To keep things lively and discourage parties from using this like a crutch, don’t just hand over these clues—explain around the hint and don’t come out and say it (leave that up to the player).
Playing the Long Game
The most satisfying gaming narratives are usually those that are formed from bits and pieces that coalesce over a period of years, but making clues that don’t give too much away and remain memorable after so long is no easy feat! My favorite method is to weave these into the history of characters—it allows the dropping of hints throughout a campaign without tipping your hand, sticks with the PC in question, and allows more flexibility in their parameters (since they aren’t played through)—but another tack is to have the clues themselves part of a nuanced motif that can easily be incorporated into encounters (whether they be combat, exploratory, or social).
However you do it, as long as they remain disparate at first and seem to be unrelated for most of the adventure, some of the clues you give out to PCs are sure to hit home and make the campaign something truly memorable!
Most roleplaying games are much more than just moving around a map, stating that you swing your +3 cold iron battleaxe at the CR 1 kobold, or charging into the irrational mob to slay the loud mouth. They can be about the story and characters, allowing each PC to do great and unexpected (and memorable) things. Some of the best of these moments aren’t even violent, but the party dissolving a combat encounter by using diplomacy or even cunning deceit to turn enemies into unwitting allies! Below are some tips for GMs to make this facet of roleplaying more accessible for all levels of play, making it easier for a group to engage with the game world in a way more eloquent than fighter-ing the NPCs.
Rookie Players Beginners sometimes have the most fun and unexpected reactions to different encounters but unfortunately, there can be a tendency to get stuck into a routine of just killing everything that poses a threat or shows hostility towards them. Now this isn’t a bad thing—they should be wary of most monsters in a general sense—but here are some new tips for breaking in a rookie PC
- Drop heavy hints that sometimes it’s better to communicate with the angry mob.
- Have the party overhear a lesser NPC expressing a desire for a peaceful resolution, providing the PCs with the proverbial foot in the door.
- Instead of waiting, have an NPC approach the party to open a dialogue.
- Despite the danger of rising ires, don’t have the NPCs draw their weapons, and instead they sheathe blades when the adventurers approach (seeing a real possible threat and generally backing down in response).
- Have the mob approach the players, but not to make attack rolls (though this is a dicey option, as some PCs are perhaps a bit eager to draw first blood).
Immediate Players These are individuals who know the rules and usually have a good sense of the game’s flow; they aren’t as easily caught into the looping circle of, “well we can kill this NPC and there’s almost no downside—why not?” Depending on what their PC is, these folks are almost always willing to talk it out if they feel like they cannot safely kill the NPC. It’s also worth remembering (or pointing out for the truly dense gamer) that indiscriminately killing people generally doesn’t do great things for one’s reputation (including the willingness for commoners and merchants to interact with them at all).
- Drop light hints that focus on describing more body language and how the NPCs shift about while the confrontation mounts. This gives the party reason to scrutinize what apparently hostile enemies might really be doing or thinking, rather than just what they might be saying.
- Remind players that negotiations are often weighted by scales that (frequently of the gilded variety) and that debate (or haggling) has long been an important part of society.
- When the adventurers make a good skill check or voice a valid point, have parts of the crowd gradually come over to their side of things, showing that maybe a mob isn’t as unruly as it looks.
Veteran Players These gamers have seen campaigns from beginning to end time and again, and sometimes they get to thinking they can see what’s coming from a mile away (though they might not make that clear from the onset). The routine a party plays out when meeting NPCs benefits from the presence of these individuals, and they tend to set the pace of social interactions; the suggestions below aren’t so much to help these folks out, but to provide them some (oft appreciated) variety in these encounters.
- Directly confront the adventurers with an important NPC that’s anathema to the veteran player, just remember that you don’t want to force any gamer (especially a “face”) to lose their place in the party.
- Have NPCs surrender only to fight again! There’s a wealth of great dialogue that can happen in the midst of battle, but a brief reprieve can alleviate the disruption that often comes from a well-delivered quip and even be used (by either side) to shake up the tactical layout of a combat.
- Involve some storytelling mechanics that enforce certain rules in conversation; maybe there’s a trigger word that can incite NPCs into a frenzy if spoken too many times, or a magical effect that punishes anyone that suggests dissent against the local lord. This shouldn’t totally impede the adventurer’s conversations, but provide a fun and innovative challenge to the regular skill check rolls and bribery often employed in these situations
Remember that these are just hints, tips, and suggestions that can help bring about a more pacifist session to a gaming group. It’s the GMs story and some epic combat is likely to be a part of it, but don’t forget to enjoy the unique solutions PCs often come up with to calm the raging barbarian, cheat some scurrilous merchants out of some coin, or talk their way out of a dragon’s lair! The options are as endless as the games we play, and some of the most memorable moments come from the mindset of a negotiator rather than a warrior.
[Submitted by Tim Snow!]